I THINK we can all agree that for too long, decisions affecting the Tees Valley have been made by civil servants in London who’ve had no real idea about the facts on the ground.

The good news is we’re starting to see a shift in the balance of power.

Local people now have a mayor whose powers have been handed down from London, not snatched up from local councils. I will use these powers, and my £460m investment fund, to accelerate business growth so they can crack on creating jobs for local people, helping them to provide for themselves and their families.

This month I’ve hit the ground running to deliver my Plan for Growth. First was the launch of my vision to transform our road network across the Tees Valley, which includes a new Tees Crossing and a northern bypass for Darlington.

Some of these schemes have been talked about for decades, but I hope to get this sorted once and for all.

Secondly, I have reached a landmark deal with the Teesside Pension Fund for it to invest a whopping £200m in local projects.

Teessiders have worked hard to pay into their pension pots, so it’s about time their money was invested locally to the benefit of all. This month, I’ve also launched two major employment and skills initiatives: my £7.5m Routes to Work scheme to help 2,500 of the most disadvantaged people get back to work, and a £1.5m Apprenticeships Grant that prioritises proper vocational courses in Teesside’s priority sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, chemical processing and engineering.

Next, I am currently pulling together a comprehensive set of options to fulfil my election pledge on Teesside airport. This is an exhaustive piece of work with a lot going on behind the scenes. I hope to update people in the fullness of time; however I can say that I’ve already held productive meetings with the new Aviation Minister, Lord Callanan, and with the chairman of Peel Airports, who are both working with me to help secure my ambitions.

In a previous life I was a corporate solicitor and let me tell you that no deal can happen overnight. This will take time, but good progress is being made. All I can ask of readers is to remain patient, put their trust in me and remember this: I will deliver on my pledge.

FINALLY, in a few weeks’ time, the new South Tees Development Corporation will be officially launched. Covering the former SSI steelworks site in Redcar, it is the first Mayoral Development Corporation to be set up outside London. Chaired by me, it has been handed a tonne of powers from Whitehall to invest in infrastructure, attract new business, and coordinate land ownership – including through compulsory purchase powers.

I’ve already received over 100 expressions of interest from global companies wanting to put down roots and invest on this site.

This is yet another vote of confidence in our area which, if we get right, will lead to thousands of good quality jobs being created.